What is a Feature
A feature is just a notable property or attribute of something. So in the context of your product it is whatever parts of the product allow customers to do what they need to do. If you’re still having trouble wrapping your head around what a feature is think about what you would send to your marketing team that is distinctive and marketable about the product. That list of things that marketing would promote is your list of features. Voila!
How to Prioritize
Prioritization is always a balancing act. As a product manager you want to get the most features that you can into the product that have the largest impact to the customer. This is an endeavor that involves a balancing act between what the business can afford, what developers can do in the allotted time, and what the customer needs. The product manager must sit in the middle of these constraints and determine what features to work on. In order to choose what is in and what is out, a good way to go is to map them out against each other.
The simplest way to map out a feature prioritization chart is to simply assign a rating to the impact in each of the three areas. The impact to the business is in cost, the impact to development is time to develop, and the impact to the customer is the value they get from the feature. Clearly some base research needs to be done in order to assign ratings here, but the if you are at this point you should have what you need and don’t need to agonize on gathering more data. You should have a lot of data already from doing research to get to this point (If not then revisit our articles on User Research). And you don’t need to know the exact cost or customer impact, only how much customer impact there is relative to the other features you are prioritizing. This is a considerably lower bar and an important clarification to remember.
How to Gain Alignment
Once you have your prioritized list you will inevitably have some features that are In and some that are Out. The process of gaining alignment can be thought of as the “politician” element of the product manager role. Inevitably, the features that are going to be in the Out category will have some stakeholders that care about them. You may need to show some of your work and how you prioritized, but at the end of the day this is your right and your role as a product manager to say No, generally more frequently than you say Yes.
Aligning prioritization with stakeholders can be the easiest part of a product manager’s role or the hardest depending on the environment. Generally, smaller companies are easier simply in virtue of the fact that there are fewer people to get alignment from. But, even more than size the ease of this relies on the personalities and the trust you have built with your stakeholders. Some personalities (we’ve all worked with them) just do not take kindly to hearing No, especially those of the “HiPPO” variety. The only tip I can provide here is to remain tough and retain your integrity as much as possible. You won’t win every battle, but over time as you build the trust of your stakeholders you will get a longer and longer leash. This may be a long term engagement, so don’t focus on the win and loss of any individual battle.
That’s all for today! Please let us know your thoughts and comments.